‘Free to Be’ through Proactive and Preventative Technology Enabled Care

‘Free to Be’ through Proactive and Preventative Technology Enabled Care

Since 1971, Bield Housing & Care have been developing housing and services to enable Scotland’s older people to live the life they want.  Our brand promise, ‘Free to Be’, sums up our firm belief that older people should have the freedom to make their own choices and live as independently as possible. This is a promise which, thanks to the dedication, experience and passion of our staff and volunteers, we are uniquely placed to bring to life. 

BR24 is our digital alarm monitoring service which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This professional and reliable service is available to support people in both planned and emergency situations and provides greater peace of mind for customers and their loved ones. 

As Head of BR24 & Assistive Technology Development, I am passionate about improving our customers’ digital skills and understanding how technology can be used to enhance personalisation and independence. Our use of innovative technology has already received national recognition – Bield won the Transformation Award at the UK 2023 ITEC awards. The ITEC awards celebrate innovation within the sector and the positive impact Technology Enabled Care (TEC) has on the lives of millions of people in the UK.  The Transformation Award honours services that have planned and implemented major transformation with a proactive and preventative approach.

Bield are committed to developing the use of proactive telecare to support individuals to live healthier, independent lives in their own homes for longer. Our Inspire (Phase 2) project enabled us to make a real difference to real lives in real time.  By introducing proactive telecare in an innovative way, we were able to develop relationships with participants, build trust and gather insights about what mattered to them.  This enabled us to provide a tailored service that went beyond supporting the health and wellbeing of the participants; we could also anticipate potential crisis moments and take preventative action. 

Proactive telecare interventions included personalised wellbeing calls and “good conversations”. Staff listened to what mattered to the individual and provided general health advice and signposting to condition-specific specialist local third sector support.  This innovative use of proactive telecare played a vital role in empowering the participants to ensure they had relevant, personalised knowledge and support in place to live the life they wanted, without constraints or dependence on public services. The participants reported that they valued the service, it was beneficial to their health and wellbeing, connected them with others and reduced their sense of isolation.  

In addition to these personal outcomes achieved, the project decreased ambulance calls by 75% and reduced A&E visits by 68%.  This resulted in estimated costs avoided for the NHS in excess of £71,000 within 3 months.  The project demonstrated that proactive telecare can offer personalised, flexible and anticipatory support for a diverse range of customers.  These can range from those with low intensity needs to those with more complex issues, such as an escalating risk of harm associated with recurring falls or those transitioning from hospital.  

Faced with a national health and social care crisis, I believe that proactive telecare can provide a solution by empowering people to live in their own homes, independently for longer.   You can read more about the Proactive Telecare Outbound Calling Tests of Change Project in the evaluation report by the University of the West of Scotland, commissioned and jointly funded by the Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre (DHI) and the national TEC Programme in Scotland.  The report is available here     

Recently, through our Technology for our Ageing Population Panel of Innovation (TAPPI) initiative, we’ve been making significant strides in digital literacy and reducing digital inequalities. Enthusiastic participation by 492 tenants shows their eagerness to embrace technology, despite existing barriers, and a profound and growing need to bridge the digital divide. This journey is about reshaping the landscape of digital engagement and inclusivity for the ageing population, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from the digital revolution. Our Digital Hub is a centre for collaboration involving tenants and a wide array of stakeholders, from local health and social care partners to housing associations. Here, tenants have hands-on experiences with both consumer technology and TEC devices including predictive and analytical AI sensor technology, in conjunction with our Alarm Receiving Centre. The Digital Hub has been a catalyst in empowering tenants and addressing digital disparities. Through TAPPI-guided co-production rooted in understanding the needs and preferences of individuals, we’ve harnessed both qualitative and quantitative data to capture the transformative impact of technology to enable non-critical pathways and enhanced support living environments. 

The lessons from our TAPPI and proactive telecare work include the critical need for interoperable systems and a collaborative environment that unites various technology providers around a more collaborative, integrated strategy. The strong interest in technology among older residents guided our focus on digital literacy and user-centric solutions, building on the right tech at the right time. Co-production has been invaluable, shaping decisions and fostering collaboration whilst forming the first of our co-production strategies, written with our tenants. These efforts have significantly advanced our mission to support independent living, reducing reliance on external services.  

Moving forward, we are excited to begin exploring how we scale up, sustain, and embed TAPPI principles into Bield’s ambitious five-year strategy, continuing to innovate and enhance the lives of our tenants in their own homes, for as long as possible.  This journey is not just about technology; it’s about fostering a community where everyone, regardless of ability, has the opportunity to live freely and independently, being ‘Free to Be’.  

Gary Baillie

Head of BR24 & Assistive Technology Development

Bield Housing and Care